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My first shot at the SBN platform's automated game thread—I'm not sure what I do and what the all-knowing blogware does, but ideally some combination of the two of us will get most of the game thread particulars out of the way.
Paul Mahol[lu]m gets the opening day nod for the Pirates as a reward for being the only starter from that mildly exciting young 2007 staff not to spontaneously combust in the interim. Up to now he was probably the least celebrated of that group—Zach Duke had the Tim Keefe start to his career and the gaudy end-of-season ERA to go with it, Tom Gorzellany and Ian Snell both had 14 win seasons—but Maholm is the last of the bunch to avoid one of those where-are-they-now Spring Trainings.
As for the Cardinals lineup, I'm against it mostly as a populist—the opening day crowd treks through some truly miserable weather to see the Cardinals play, and they don't even get to see Rasmus, Freese, or Schumaker? If I didn't know La Russa better that would seem designed specifically to yank the collective chain. But it's a long season, and as MdRedbirdFreak noted in the comments, one way to count the 2009 season as a success would be to
develop a zen-like sense of tranquility in the face of LaRussa lineup outrages. Because with this team we are going to see many, many bizarre choices.
I take the La Russa lineup management as part of the package, so long as it's not detrimental to a player's development (the Reyes clause)—it's connected not only to La Russa's formidable reputation as a handler of limited players but to what makes Cardinals baseball so unique and, I think, enjoyable. But I'm still hoping to see Freese et al get a chance in the first double switch of the season, preferably after the Cardinals have chased Maholm in the second.
Go Cardinals—overflow threads as necessary.